Craig Wetterer, School of Psychology
Over the past several decades, research on authoritarianism in law enforcement officers has focused primarily on measurement of the construct in pre-service academy recruits and incumbent officers; however, little is known at present about how authoritarianism might influence decision making in law enforcement personnel. Although most studies have found that early socialization processes increase authoritarianism levels in this population, many of these earlier studies were encumbered with methodological limitations that affected generalizability. More specifically, they employed poorly validated measures and utilized samples that were not representative of a contemporary law enforcement organization. The present study sought to confirm the influence of group socialization on the constructs of authoritarianism and social dominance orientation by use of a contemporary and representative law enforcement sample. To test the hypothesis that higher authoritarianism and social dominance orientation would lead to more punitive enforcement outcomes for ethnic minorities, ethnicity was experimentally manipulated in a traffic stop vignette in which enforcement outcomes were rated by participants. Findings indicated that early group socialization is associated with increased authoritarianism and social dominance orientation in law enforcement officers; however, higher scores on these constructs did not predict the differential treatment of ethnic minorities in the form of more punitive enforcement outcomes.
Key Words: Authoritarianism, Social Dominance Orientation, Police, Prejudice